By Ginger Easton Smith, County Extension Agent
Release date: May 25, 2021
I prayed for rain but forgot to request that it be received in one-inch weekly allotments! The good news is that the heavy rain we had last week means we can save water this week. The deep soaking is wonderful for plants of all sizes (grass to trees) to expand their root systems – the roots will grow deep because the soil is wet to a deep level and expand out sideways.
Your challenge is to not water your lawn until the leaf blades begin to curl just a wee bit and you can see a color change in them-they will turn a slightly bluish hue. Give the roots a chance to go down deep. It will not hurt the plants at all, in fact it will be an advantage to them.
Take note of how many days after the last rain it takes the grass and other plants to wilt just slightly and then plan to water at intervals of one day less than that. Conserving water is important and will become more so. You will also save on your water and sewer bills.
Plants in pots or that were recently put in the ground are the exception and need more frequent watering.
The rain was fantastic for trees! They are smiling now. Trees that are well established will not need to be watered for a several weeks. Their roots are growing deep and wide, just like we want them to, and like they want to do.
Deeper roots mean better water infiltration, improved uptake of water and nutrients, better drought-tolerance and greater tolerance to other stresses encountered for all plants.
Do you know what will not like infrequent watering? Mosquitoes! Their eggs can hatch, and larvae develop, in just a tiny bit of water. Letting the soil surface, built up grass thatch, and mulch dry out some will decrease the little beasts’ options for reproduction. Be sure, as usual after a rain, to walk around your property and dump out anything that is holding even a capful of water to reduce (or at least not grow) the mosquito population.
Thunder and lightning storms actually produce nitrogen-enriched rain, it is at low levels but is still a bonus. Be glad (and proud) if you did not fertilize before the big rain since much of the fertilizer would have been washed away in surface runoff or leached down below the root zone. Either way, the plants cannot use it and it ends up in our estuaries and bays where it is a pollutant.
Fertilize lightly now if your plants need it, using a slow-release product. If the soil is dry on the surface, water very lightly following the application just to moisten the fertilizer. If the soil is wet, no additional watering is needed.
Compost is a good source of nutrients, as well as organic matter, increasing both the water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil and the good microorganisms. It is great for all plants so apply about a half inch layer of it to as large an area of your yard as you can. It will quickly work its way down into the soil.
When it is dry enough to mow, keep in mind that in general, the higher the cut, the deeper the roots – they mirror each other. The recommended mowing heights for turfgrass are: Common Bermuda 1.5 – 3”, Hybrid Bermuda 1 – 2.5” (reel mower recommended), St. Augustine 2.5 – 4”, Seashore Paspalum 1 – 2”, and Centipede 1.5 – 2”. Recommended heights for other grasses are readily available online or in printed publications.
Leave the grass clippings on the lawn, they contain 2-4% nitrogen which will make the grass green. Grass clipping must, by local ordinance, be kept out of gutters to prevent them from getting into storm drains and then into the bays and estuaries, which can cause major problems. Clippings on the sidewalk or street should be raked or blown back into the yard.
With the rain and the heat, our gardens and landscapes should be bursting into bloom.
Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, genetic information, age, or national origin. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating.
By Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners and Compiled by Amanda Steves and Ann Smith
Here’s a list of April garden tasks for the Texas Coastal Bend area from the Aransas/San Patricio County Master Gardeners. Many plants are still “waking up” from the freeze. Be patient. The soil and weather is still cool and tropical plants need the heat to stimulate growth. If you don’t see any growth our advice is to continue to wait, particularly with palm trees. If you don’t see new growth, resist watering and fertilizer until you see new growth.
–It’s time to set out your summer-blooming transplants, container-grown shrubs and trees, tropical plants, and palms. In shady parts of the yard, you can plant groundcover such as liriope, mondo grass, or Asian jasmine.
–Spread a layer of compost in newly planted beds and then top off with mulch, keeping it away from plant stems or trunks.
–Pull weeds as soon as they pop up in your new beds, since competition with young plants can delay flowering.
–Because of our often-infertile soil in the Coastal Bend area, it’s important to give plants some extra nutrition. This can be done with compost, worm castings, slow-release fertilizers, or formulations for specific plant types. It’s better to under-feed than over-feed, so if you’re not sure how much to apply, go on the light side.
–Hibiscus, azaleas, roses and many tropical plants need monthly feedings through the spring and summer, unless they have yet to emerge from freeze. Be patient.
–Fertilize fruit trees and other spring-flowering trees and shrubs after they finish blooming.
–Palms need three feedings a year, and it’s time for the first one. Use a granular slow-release fertilizer that includes micronutrients with a 2:1:3 or 3:1:3 ratio of nitrogen 👎, phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Apply it to the soil in a band around the root ball, as far out as the canopy spreads.
–Most trees don’t need much in the way of added nutrients, although they all love a layer of compost or their own mulched leaves spread underneath.
–We’ve finally reached the month to prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs such as redbuds and azaleas and climbing roses. Be sure to wait until they have finished blooming.
–It’s warm enough to prune palms, if needed. Only remove completely dead fronds. When you make a cut, leave a few inches of the frond stem on the trunk.
–Lawn-mowing time is here again. Start with a sharp blade—either new or sharpened-up. This is because a dull blade tears the grass, which then turns brown on top, making a healthy lawn look bad.
–When you mow, only take about 1/3 of the grass blade off so you don’t deprive it food-producing leaves. Leave clippings on the ground to return their nutrients to the soil—they usually decompose in less than a week. Mow over them as you go, so they are less visible.
–When your grass is actively growing—you’ve had to mow it (not the weeds) twice—it’s time to fertilize. You can spread a half-inch of compost or use a slow-release fertilizer. More is not better, even with compost. Avoid high-phosphorus formulas because it tends to build up to destructive levels in sandy soil. Also, avoid weed-and-feed products, as they can be very harmful to trees and other landscape plants. Whatever you use, water it in to get it down to the soil.
–If you have live oaks, you probably have a yard full of leaves by now. Do your trees a favor and let the leaves stay on the ground. You can mow over them to create a natural mulch, or just leave them as they are. The fallen leaves will give their nutrients back to the trees.
–Do not prune your oaks in the spring—there’s a risk of oak wilt infection. If you accidentally injure an oak or are forced to cut a branch, paint it immediately.
–April brings a blossoming of insects and fungi. Check young foliage for signs of mildew, rust, or black spot, and remove the affected parts or treat with a fungicide.
–Spider mites, aphids, thrips, whitefly, and a host of caterpillars may show up on your plants. Examine them frequently, and take steps like a forceful spray of water, insecticidal soap, or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) as needed.
–Insects are part of the natural ecosystem and will be kept in check if you keep your plants healthy and allow beneficial predators to thrive. You can attract them to your garden by providing native plants, water, and shelter for birds, lizards, frogs, and toads. You can keep beneficial insects around by avoiding the use of insecticides and by having something in bloom all the time.
–Until mid-April, you can still put in summer veggies like tomato and pepper transplants, or sow seed for bush green beans, corn, cucumber, cantaloupe, okra, southern peas, watermelon, and squash. Mulch all around them, avoiding the stems.
–Be sure to thin your veggie seedlings—crowding results in weak, unproductive plants.
–Check your vegetable garden regularly for pests like caterpillars, stinkbugs, snails, slugs, and pillbugs. Most of these can be controlled by picking them off, baits, natural predators, or insecticidal soap.
–Try to keep the flower buds pinched off because herbs’ flavors change when they bloom.
DON’T MISS our upcoming Workshops and Brown Bag Lectures:
— A Sustainable Lifestyle in your own Backyard WORKSHOP, Saturday, April 10, 2021 10:00am – 12:00pm. Fee: $15
— “What’s That Buzz? Attracting Pollinators” FREE. Tuesday, April 20. Noon – 1:00pm
— “To Squish or Not to Squish” FREE Tuesday, May 18, 2021 Noon – 1:00pm
— “Kid Friendly Gardening & Crafting Fun WORKSHOP” Saturday, May 8. 10:00 am – 12:00 pm Fee: $5 per child (age 4+) // family discounts of $1 for each add’l sibling.
All events are held at 892 Airport Road, Rockport. To register for workshops go to: https://aspmgstore.org/collect…/2021-workshop-registration
Thanks to Master Gardeners Todd Cutting and Marthanne Mitchell for contributing to this list.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Aransas County Office is located at 892 Airport Road in Rockport. AgriLife Extension education programs serve people of all ages, regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, handicap or national origin.
By Ginger Easton Smith
Release date: December 16, 2020
It is the season of the beautiful poinsettia which ‘blooms’ at this time of year where it grows naturally. Poinsettia is a tropical plant which forms a spectacular bush,10-15 feet tall, in tropical parts of the world.
It is native to Mexico and was called Cuetlaxochitl by the Aztecs, who used it medicinally and as a dye in the 14-16th centuries. Much later, it was given the botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima, which means “very beautiful”, by a German botanist enchanted by its bright colors. The name poinsettia is in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, appointed by President John Quincy Adams in the 1820’s. He collected some cuttings from a bush growing on the roadside and brought them to the United States.
Indoors, poinsettias need bright light and regular (but not too frequent) watering. Find a spot that is away from the heater (or air conditioning, depending on the day) vent and away from drafts from open windows or doors. Ideally, place it near a window where it gets indirect light, or even a couple hours a day of direct light. Do not put it so close that the leaves are touching the window.
The trickiest thing, to me, is watering and I think a lot of that results from poinsettias being in a foil pot wrap. If you want to keep the foil, then be sure to poke some holes in it so the pot can drain. Standing water is most plants’ worst enemy.
Water thoroughly each time you water, wetting all the soil in the pot; do not water again until the soil is dry about half an inch down. If leaves are drooping or falling, it could be due to too much water, or not enough water, but if they are falling and the soil is wet – too much (actually too frequent) water is the likeliest cause. Insufficient light can also contribute to leaf drop.
Poinsettias are often thought of as poisonous, but actually are not. Extensive studies at Ohio State University have proven this. However, their milky sap, typical of the plants in the Euphorbia family, can cause skin irritation for some people, particularly those with latex allergies. Although it is not poisonous, it is still a good idea to keep young children, puppies and kittens away from poinsettia plants. Other fairly common plants in the Euphorbia family are Crown of Thorns, crotons, chenille plant, cassava, castor bean, and jatropha.
The colored (besides green) part of the plant that we often refer to as flowers or blooms, are actually modified leaves called bracts; there are flowers–they are small, yellow and in the center of each cluster of colorful bracts. Once the flowers shed their pollen, the leaves and bracts begin to drop off the plant.
More than 100 varieties of poinsettias, of varying bract colors and patterns, sizes, and forms have been developed by breeders. The most popular is still red, but other colors such as white, pink – light and dark, burgundy, multiple colors in speckled or spotted patterns, and more are readily available.
Getting a poinsettia to “re-bloom” can be very tricky as it has to have complete darkness from 5:00 pm to 8:00 am for several months. Look into it and try it if you are so inclined, or just enjoy your plant while it is beautiful and get another one to appreciate next year.
WELCOME TO OUR FIRST SALE
The Covid19 pandemic has made us all conscious of social distancing and contactless shopping. Sooo we decided to go virtual and our FIRST Master Gardener Association online plant sale was born!
This store will be open several times a year where plant selections will be based on what is blooming, and the ideal planting season.
All sales will be for pickup only at our garden located at the Aransas AgriLife Extension:
892 Airport Rd, Rockport, Texas
Before you shop, there are a couple of things you need to know:
1. Place your order: BEFORE Midnight, Friday October 2, 2020
2. Pickup date: ONLY ON Saturday, October 10, 2020 (9am – 2pm)*
*This is the only pickup date/time, so if you know you will not be available; wait for our next sale to order.
3. When the store is “closed”, after the online order deadline, you will still be able to visit the site for all the informative and helpful planting & care instructions we have provided throughout!
HAPPY SHOPPING and GARDENING!
Here is a list of August garden tasks for the Texas Coastal Bend area from the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners.
– Monitor your trees and plants carefully for signs of stress. Give them a deep drink of water when they droop or curl up.
– Monitor YOURSELF for signs of heat stress. It can happen before you know it. Dizziness, fatigue, nausea, cramps, and headache are signs of heat exhaustion. Get out of the heat immediately and drink some water. Do not delay.
– Restrict your outdoor work hours to early morning and in the evening to stay healthy and hydrated in hot weather.
– If you have Bermuda grass, it might have gone dormant by now. If it was healthy, prior to dormancy, and is kept free of foot and vehicle traffic, it should green back up when the weather cools.
– Check the water restrictions in your area. If you’re in stage 2, you can water with a sprinkler once a week. Drip irrigation or handheld hose-watering can be used further into the conservation stages than a sprinkler.
– Water your lawn no more than once a week. This is plenty to keep it alive and green.
– Use soaker hoses for watering vegetables and flower beds instead of a sprinkler. Soaker hoses use far less water and it goes directly to the plants. Run a soaker hose for about 3 hours for a good watering—overnight is too long.
– Use a timer for your watering, so you don’t let it go for too long.
– If you have a sprinkler system, the best way to use it is to set it to “manual” and turn it on only when needed. That way you can conserve water and protect plants from being over-watered.
– Water only in early morning, to give plants plenty of time to dry off before evening. This helps prevent fungal problems. Try to keep the water on the ground and not on leaves.
– Keep citrus, nut, and other fruiting trees well-watered with non-salty water every 2 weeks.
– Water established non-fruit trees once a month.
– Landscape plants and shrubs also need to be deeply watered every 2 weeks—more often if planted this year. And tropicals need it once a week for lush foliage and flowers.
– Trim back the annuals you planted in the spring, like impatiens and petunias to stimulate growth and more blooms.
– Stake landscape plants that have become large and are leaning from the extra weight.
– It’s okay to prune live oaks this month. The beetles that carry oak wilt fungus are not active in the heat of summer or the cold of winter. Summer is the second-best time to prune—January and February are the best. Paint all cuts with latex or pruning paint as soon as you make them. If you wait until you’ve finishing pruning, you will most likely miss some cuts.
– Prune vigorous-growth shrubs like eleagnus, privet, ligustrum, and photinia regularly to keep them under control.
– Prune rose bushes lightly to stimulate fall flowering. You can trim them back by one-third. Then fertilize them and water it in. You’ll have more blooms in September and October.
– Pull up your spent annuals and vegetables. If you don’t, they will attract pests and diseases to your garden.
– Start a new compost pile with your pulled-up plants, as long as they are not weeds or diseased plants.
– Check pulled-up plants for root galls or knots before you discard them. This can be an indicator of root-knot nematodes (a microscopic roundworm). Don’t put them in your compost pile—dispose of them in the garbage.
– If you have nematodes, you can solarize the garden or plant elbon rye to reduce their numbers.
– Check plants frequently for sucking insects, such as spider mites, mealy bugs, and aphids. Treat them with horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, or with ladybugs. If you bring in ladybugs, don’t use insecticide.
– Also check for scale—waxy blobs on leaves and stems that contain sucking insects. Treat with light horticultural oil.
– Plan your fall garden, but wait until September to put in most bedding plants and shrubs. Consider low-water native plants like cenizo (purple sage), esperanza, fiddlewood, Mexican buckeye, agarito, American beautyberry, coralbean, Barbados cherry, yaupon holly, fern acacia, crucita (fragrant mistflower), heartleaf hibiscus, softleaf yucca, Texas lantana, thorn-crested agave, Turk’s cap, wooly butterfly-bush, snapdragon vine, and Texas sabal palm. NOTE: A/SP Master Gardeners will have a pop-up sale on August 18 at 1pm.
– Get your soil tested, so you know what might be lacking or what might be present in abundance, like salt. Call the extension for details. 361-790-0103
– August is a good time to plant palms, since they need warm weather to get established.
– Plant bluebonnets and other spring-blooming wildflowers. Be sure the seeds come into contact with the soil so they can germinate. Details here: https://www.wildflower.org/learn/how-to/grow-bluebonnets NOTE: article is for central texas. Our planting time is August.
– Plant zinnias and sunflowers from seed this month.
– Plan your fall vegetable garden now. Get your seeds for cool season crops, as long as they are types that will fruit within 45-60 days like zucchini, cucumbers, and beans.
– Start your veggie plants from seed in pots around August 15. They’ll be transplanted into the ground September 15, and more in October. Zucchini and cucumbers only need a couple of weeks in the pot before going into the ground. See: https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/…/fall-vegetable-garden…/ we are in zone IV.
– Eggplants are ready to pick when they are shiny and fully colored. Seeds should be firm but not dark and hard. If the skin has become dull, it’s probably not good to eat anymore.
Thanks to Master Gardeners Heather Bywater, Todd Cutting, Richard Snyder, Ann Smith and Amanda Steves for contributing to this list.